Somewhere in Africa more than 100,000 years ago, a phenomenon new to the planet was born. A Species began to add to its habits, generation by generation, without (much) changing its genes. What made this possible was exchange, the swapping of things and services between individuals. That gave the Species an external, collective intelligence far greater than anything it could hold in its admittedly capricious brain. Two individuals could each have two tools or two ideas while each knowing how to make only one. … In this way, exchange encouraged specialization, which further increased the number of different habits the Species could have, while shrinking the number of things that each individual knew how to make. Consumption could grow more diversified, while production grew more specialized (Matt Ridley, ‘The Rational Optimist’, 2010: 350).
Ridley’s bold claim is that human progress can be explained mainly in terms of exchange and specialization. Eric Jones, a scholar who has written extensively on the history of human progress, considers that Ridley makes the case very well, based ‘on the few knowns of early pre-history’. Jones also considers that Ridley gets the story of the industrial revolution ‘mostly right’ (Review in ‘Policy’, Spring 2010, 26 (3)).
The weight that we can place on exchange and specialization as explanations of human progress depends importantly on the extent to which advance of knowledge and innovation can be attributed to exchange and specialization. It is possible to go some distance in explaining technological progress as a consequence of specialization. As Bill Easterly points out in his NYT review, however, many breakthroughs come from creative outsiders who combine technologies generated by different specialties.
Ridley mentions that government actions of various kinds in different countries have often inhibited innovation, particularly the introduction of new products and new ways of doing things that threaten the survival of established patterns of production. The implication is that freedom is a necessary condition for progress comes through clearly in Ridley’s recent contribution to Cato Unbound:
‘I am saying that there have always been liberals, who want to be free to trade in ideas as well as things, and there have always been predators, who want to extract rents by force if necessary. The grand theme of history is how the crushing dominance of the latter has repeatedly stifled the former. As Joel Mokyr puts it: “Prosperity and success led to the emergence of predators and parasites in various forms and guises who eventually slaughtered the geese that laid the golden eggs”. The wonder of the last 200 years is not the outbreak of liberalism, but the fact that it has so far fought off the rent-seeking predators by the skin of its teeth: the continuing triumph of the Bourgeoisie’ (p. 252).
I can’t help thinking that this sounds more like rational pessimism than rational optimism. According to Ridley, the industrial revolution is largely a story about coal – and progress since then has been possible mainly because of abundant cheap energy from fossil fuels. He notes that his optimism wobbles when he looks at the politics of carbon emissions reduction and the potential this has to load economies with further rules, restrictions, subsidies, distortions and corruption (p. 347).
Cartoon by Nicholson from “The Australian” newspaper: http://www.nicholsoncartoons.com.au/
The optimistic note on which Ridley ends his book comes from his view that innovation is such an evolutionary, bottom-up phenomenon that it will continue as long as exchange and specialization are allowed to thrive somewhere in the world.
In the end, it would seem that the gains from innovation, exchange and specialization all depend on liberty – liberty is the key to human progress.
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At 8:30 AM EDT, the Employment Cost Index for the third quarter of 2010 will be announced. The consensus is an increase of 0.5%, which is the same as the second quarter of 2010.
Also at 8:30 AM EDT, the advance GDP report for the second quarter of 2010 will be announced. The consensus is an increase of 2.0% in real GDP and an increase of 2.0% in the GDP price index. The real GDP estimate is slightly higher than the final estimate for the previous quarter, and these levels indicate moderate economic growth.
At 9:45 AM EDT, the Chicago PMI Index for October will be announced. The consensus index value is 57.6, which is 2.8 points lower than last month, but is still well above the break-even level at 50.
At 9:55 AM EDT, Consumer Sentiment for the second half of October will be announced. The consensus is that the index will be at 68, which is 0.1 points higher than the value reported in the first half of the month.
At 3:00 PM EDT, the Farm Prices report for September will be released, giving investors and economists an indication of the direction of food prices in the coming months.
The economic and financial crisis of 2008/2009 hit Ireland heavily. The asset price bubble and the subsequent deflation have added to the uncertain macroeconomic outlook. How did the country went from the times of the “Irish miracle” to the prolonged economic slowdown? Following the beginning of the 2008/2009 economic and financial crisis, Ireland was hit by an unprecedented economic slowdown. In 2008, the GDP declined by 3.0 percent on the annual basis. In 2009, the GDP further declined by 7.1 percent in real terms. The unemployment rate increased to almost 12 percent.
Prior to the outburst of the economic crisis, Ireland enjoyed stable and predictable levels of public debt. In 2007, the country was known for having stabilised the public debt at 25 percent of the GDP – the lowest level of any Western European country. In 2009, the debt-to-GDP ratio increased to 64 percent of the GDP. Once known as the sick man of Europe, Ireland’s economic policymakers have implemented a set of fiscal policy measures aimed to boost the long-term economic growth and abolish the economic policy based on the state intervention, high tax rates on labor and capital and export-led growth.
Ever since the 1960s, Ireland pursued a soft version of industrial policy targeted at the promotion of inward foreign direct investment and the education of highly skilled workers. In addition, Ireland reduced the corporate income tax rate to 12.5 percent and provided a thorough technical assistance and to multinational companies located in Ireland. Indeed, U.S. multinationals such as Microsoft, Dell and Intel were encouraged to locate in Ireland mainly because of its geographic proximity to key European markets, skilled English-speaking workforce, membership in the EU, relative low wage level and favorable corporate taxation.
In early 1990s, the results of a precise set of economic policies were spectacular. By the end of 2006, the unemployment rate dropped to 4.6 percent from 18 percent in early 1980s. Between 1992 and 2005, Irish GDP increased by an average of 6.9 percent while the investment grew by 8.6 percent on the annual basis. The largest contribution to GDP growth was domestic demand (5.3 percentage point). Hence, Ireland’s public finance enjoyed a favorable outlook mainly due to the rapid decline of debt-to-GDP ratio from 1980s onwards, and from a relatively low demographic pressure on the budgetary entitlements.
During the Irish boom, Irish banking and financial sector were highly dependent on the wholesale funding. Due to largely positive macroeconomic outlook from 1990 onwards, Irish banking sector received high and consistent credit ratings from agencies such as Moody, S&P and Fitch. In turn, the reliance on fragile wholesale funding resulted in overleveraged balance sheets. After the failure of Lehman Brothers in September 2008, the short-term outlook on Irish banking sector signaled a significant rise in credit-default swaps which raised concerns over the ability of banks to provide the wholesale funding for a mountain of short-term debt liabilities. And since the overleveraged balance sheets downgraded the outlook on Irish banking sector, the institutional investors demanded higher risk premium to extend the funding channel to the Irish banks.
The Directorate Generale for Economic and Financial Affairs of the European Commission downgraded the macroeconomic forecast of Irish GDP growth. By the end of 2009, the economic activity plummeted by 7.1 percent. The housing market crash was largely a result of the asset price bubble channeled through the overinvestment in the construction sector which represented 12 percent of the GDP. Nothing could explain the deflationary pressures in the aftermath of the financial crisis than excessive housing prices during the pre-crisis Irish economic boom. After 2008, Ireland’s household savings rate increased to the level above 10 percent which is a result of the adjustment in the household balance sheet. In fact, between 2001 and 2007, the share of household debt in the GDP nearly doubled.
Meanwhile, the mountain of liabilities in the Irish banking and financial sector raised the concern over its solvency. The Irish Government immediately facilitated a bailout plan for the troubled banking sector. Consequently, the large budget deficit resulted in excessive debt-to-GDP ratio which grew by 39 percentage points between 2007 and 2009. In the annual European Economic Forecast (Spring, 2010), the European Commission estimated that by the end of 2011, the debt-to-GDP ratio could reach as high as 87.3 percent. while the cyclically-adjusted government balance is estimated to increase up to -10.2 percent of the GDP. The contraction of domestic demand which, by all measures, is the main engine of Ireland’s economic growth led to a rapid increase in the unemployment rate which increase from 6.3 percent in 2008 to 11.9 percent in 2009. By 2011, the European Commission forecast that the unemployment rate is expected to further increase by 1.5 percentage point compared to 2009. In World Economic Outlook, the IMF estimated that the unemployment rate in Ireland would increase by 1.1 percentage point by the end of 2011. In 2009, Ireland experienced net outward migration for the first time since 1960s in the wake of expected 13.8 percent unemployment rate in 2010.
The macroeconomic forecast for 2011 is favorable. The European Commission upgraded GDP growth estimate to 3 percent. Meanwhile, the investment is expected to increase for the first time since the 60 percent cumulative decline of the construction sector. The positive contribution of net exports to the gradual narrowing of the current account deficit could be an important measure to alleviate the rising pressure over debt-to-GDP ratio. On the other hand, Ireland’s Department of Finance revised the macroeconomic forecasts and estimated that by the end of this year, the GDP would grow by 1 percent on the annual basis.
The essential measure of Irish economic recovery is the retrenchment of wage rates in the public sector and the adjustment of public sector wages to the cyclical dynamics of economic activity to prevent the possibility of excessive inflationary pressures in the course of economic recovery. Current measures of retrenching public sector wages successfully anchored the inflationary expectations. According to the IMF, the annual inflation rate is estimated to peak at nearly 2 percent by the end of 2015. The falling wage rates in the private sector could induce the reallocation of resources in the tradeable sector, further adding to the contribution of net external trade to the GDP growth.
The key measures to alleviate the consequences of economic and financial crisis in both real and financial sector are the immediate narrowing of Ireland’s excessive budget deficit and public debt in the share of GDP. High public debt is mainly the result of government capital injection into Anglo-Irish Bank which represents about 2 percentage points of net deficit increase in 2010. The entire consolidation package represents 2.5 percent of the GDP.
Deutsche Bank recently published Public Debt in 2020 and estimated the levels of public debt by the end of that year for both advanced and emerging-market economies. The analysis by Deutsche Bank predicted the effect of a combined negative shock in real interest rate, primary government balance and real GDP growth. If the combined shock of all three variables were to change by about one-fourth standard deviation from the estimated growth rate, the public debt in 2020 would reach 154 percent of the GDP. If the combined shock of all three variables increased by one-half standard deviation from the baseline estimates, the public debt in 2020 would increase to 197 percent of the GDP. The difference in the estimated increase is due to higher intensity of the combined shock. In addition, to restore the debt-to-GDP ratio to pre-crisis level, Ireland would be required to increase the primary government balance to 6 percent of the GDP.
Given the enormous magnitude and burden of public debt and overleveraged corporate and financial sector, the immediate facilitation of measures to alleviate the public indebtedness is necessary. Ireland’s economic future is constrained by the persistence of budget deficit which adds to the future burden of public debt. Prudent efforts to reduce the burden of both debt and deficit are of the essential importance. Nevertheless, Irish policymakers should not neglect the economic policies that created the Irish miracle as well as the policy errors that caused the deepest economic decline in Western Europe during the 2008/2009 economic crisis.
At 8:30 AM EDT, the U.S. government will release its weekly Jobless Claims report. The consensus is that there were 455,000 new jobless claims last week, which would would be 3,000 more than last week’s number, which was unexpectedly low.
At 10:30 AM EDT, the weekly Energy Information Administration Natural Gas Report will be released, giving an update on natural gas inventories in the United States.
At 4:30 PM EDT, the Federal Reserve will release its Money Supply report, showing the amount of liquidity available in the U.S. economy.
Also at 4:30 PM EDT, the Federal Reserve will release its Balance Sheet report, showing the amount of liquidity the Fed has injected into the economy by adding or removing reserves.
Popular wisdom has it that markets are always right or, more appropriately; that if you find your self on the wrong side of the market consensus the best cause of action is to join the ranks less you want to be rolled over by a steamroller. However, it may take some time before the market corrects to the underlying fundamentals or so, at least, I will argue.
Last time I wrote on Ireland I noted how the country’s latest move to emphasize its strong cash position (as well as the fact that it announced the intention not to go to market to seek financing) was a wink to EU policy makers that either the current plan works or Ireland will need funding help. Private market funding at current and future expected rates is not an option and the really important question is whether the interest rates charge by some form of European SPV would also be consistent with a recovery or simply another debt spiral. I have my doubts here.
Indeed; with a the running deficit to GDP of 32% in 2010 it is absolutely necessary that Ireland addresses this as a first priority. No matter how much cash you have lying around or how much you expect to be able to get from a coordinated relief program (essentially borrowing with low rates and long maturity), the failure to react now would mean that the time path of public debt would prove instantly unsustainable as we moved into 2011 and 2012
However, markets don’t seem to be very comfortable with the prospects of very strong austerity measures in Ireland.
Bond investors are losing faith in Ireland’s plan to lower the deficit as spending cuts threaten to undermine economic growth, reducing government revenue. Irish 10-year bond yields climbed within 50 basis points of the 454 basis-point record spread, set Sept. 29, relative to similar-maturity German bunds. Portugal’s spread fell about 1 percentage point against the German benchmark in the past month, the Greek-German yield gap narrowed 102 basis points and the Spanish spread was close to the lowest level since Aug. 10.
It is important to understand the underlying message here. What drives the worry is not so much the debt and deficit itself, but more so that the severe austerity measures needed to restore the evolution of debt will derail the economy and thus become counterproductive. Indeed, this is the main issue which most OECD economies grapple with at the moment.
But surely, it is not easy being Ireland at the moment. On one day, spreads climb because you are trying to plug the hole in the budget as you try to salvage a broken financial sector and the next spreads climb on growth fears as you introduce austerity measures in an attempt to correct the deficit incured in the first place.Look up the old proverb of being stuck between a rock and a hard place and you will find the European Periphery as a chief example.
What is interesting in particular are the comments extracted by Bloomberg from various fixed income portfolio managers across Europe. They seem to me to be getting closer to a does not compute moment of their own (all quotes are gathered by Bloomberg). Firstly, Dermot O’Leary, chief economist at Goodbody Stockbrokers simply turns the focus upside down and argues that now, surely, growth is the most important goal for Ireland.
“With the scale of consolidation now known, the department’s strategy for returning the economy to growth” could “now be described as more important than the consolidation measures,”
I wonder whether he would change his mind if the black hole of Anglo Irish takes the 2010 deficit/GDP figure to 40% (or perhaps 50%?). But there are other much more fundamental issues being raised; for example by John Fitzgerald a member of the central bank board.
The risk is “the medicine is too severe so that, like chemotherapy, it puts the patient into decline,”
Indeed, this is a risk and one which I (and others) have been banging on about the last 2 years, but the one I really liked was the comment by Ralf Ahrens from Frankfurt Trust and the simple yet crucial question;
“There is this central question of where does growth come from.”
Well, well. Aren’t we coming full circle here?
Allow me to repeat three questions I posed recently in relation to the ongoing efforts to solve the the crisis in many European economies.
- How do you correct external competitiveness deficiency from within a currency union at the same time as implementing fiscal austerity without risking debt levels to spin out of control?
- How long should Southern Europe and Ireland endure deflation relative to the core to restore external competitiveness (will Germany accept a lower external surplus as result)?
- How might a sovereign restructuring in a Eurozone economy play out?
The first question is really the main issue at hand. In the absence of nominal currency devaluation you need to impose wage restraint and deflation in order to correct a large external balance. As this large external imbalance is reflected in a large domestic debt level there is a real risk that if the entire correction must come from the domestic price level, the level of debt in itself will spin out of control which then manifests itself in either large scale private sector defaults or default on the sovereign level.
The main message here is simple macroeconomics. If you combine deflation and negative nominal growth rates over a prolonged period of time and given an already elevated debt level; your overall level of debt relative to the value of your activities (GDP) quickly become unsustainable.
So how do correct then? Well, not without a little help from your friends which brings us to the second question.
Consequently, this is not only about the European periphery suffering, it is about them suffering more than everyone else. Indeed, the recent ascent of the Euro is no good for them in so far as goes competitiveness outside the Eurozone and even inside Europe, it is starting to look like everybody’s race to the bottom in terms of on whose back intra-Eurozone imbalances are supposed to correct. Naturally, a steady depreciation of the Euro would, strictu sensu, be welcome news for Greece, Ireland et al. Yet, this seems far off at the moment with the Fed doing the printing and the ECB reluctant to add further stimulus. On the concrete question of time, you just need to slice up the effects of say, a 30 % nominal devaluation (e.g. against the Euro or USD) which is the likely alternative scenario, I think, if any of the most troubled Eurozone economy had their own currencies. It then means that we would need to see a prolonged period of relative deflation to Core Europe.
This however would in itself be problematic since 5-10 years of slow pain would almost certainly result in a Japan type lost decade, but also be almost impossible from within the Eurozone (i.e. politically). So by proof of elimination we reach question three. Indeed, PIMCO’s El-Erian recently argued that Greece is likely to default within 3 years and that this need not be cataclysmic. I fully agree.
It is impossible to do any form of calculation here since we don’t have any numbers that are coherent, but surely I would think that something along the lines of a 30% haircut on the principal and a notable extension of maturity is a likely result (but really, I have no idea!). The alternative would be that the rest of the periphery follows Ireland’s example and simply leave the private market (although China et al. have indeed been fishing lately) and thus, they would have to be capitalised slowly from within an intra Eurozone structural fund (or through outrigth monetization by the ECB, but this is not going to happen I think).
In the event of restructuring, big the question of the hole left on the balance sheet of Eurozone debt holders of peripheral bonds (let us think about foreign holders later). A couple of potential solutions have already been put forward.
Leaving aside the Structural Fund which is not supposed to recapitalise private entities (at least not yet) it would mean that those banks either would have to enter the market to recapitalise, be recapitalised by their domestic governments (a deal which could form part of the default), or simply transfers bonds at par to the ECB which tend would have to take the hair cut on its balance sheet.
At the end of the day, this kind of rhetoric is still seen as fearmongering and disruptive in the Eurozone collective since there is still a strong sense of resolve around the fact that no sovereign in the Eurozone may be allowed to default/restructure on its debt. As such, you could argue that one glaring omission in my analysis is that I don’t consider the costs of default. Well, they would naturally be substantial not only for the individual economies but for the Eurozone itself. However, when you run even a rudimentary simulation of the likely numbers it is pretty easy to see how this cannot go on. There is no exogenous source of economic growth that will help the periphery move in to a virtuous circle, there is only one big vicious one in which more austerity brings lower growth and deflation which in turn affects the level of debt to GDP.
I admire resolve and I even believe that it is merited, but this is only to the extent that Germany (and France) are willing to assume their part of the bill (which will be very big) or to the extent that the ECB decides to employ wholly new and Fed-like policy tools.
Absent this and leaving aside the question of whether Germany and France realistically would be able to foot the bill at all, the only question is if the markets are starting to get it, when will the shoe drop on the level of macroeconomic policy making?
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The `lemons model’ in milk procurement
One of the classic stories of India of old is that of Amul, which brought new technology into milk procurement. When the farmer
brought his shipment of milk to the Amul front-end, a centrifuge was used to measure the characteristics of this shipment, and based on this payments were made. This eliminated the incentives for aduleration of milk (by adding in water or by skimming the cream).
We can think about this differently. Suppose the centrifuge was not there at the front end. Then the buyer of the milk faced asymmetric information about the characteristics of the milk that were being offered to him. Generally we expect that faced with
this `lemons’ problem, the buyer would bid low prices for the milk.
So to some extent, the ability of Amul to pay higher prices for milk is not about the greatness of cooperatives when compared with
profit-oriented firms: it was about the injection of new technology which removed this asymmetric information.
The interesting puzzle, then, is: in that age, why was Amul the pioneer in buying centrifuges? Why did no private firm buy
centrifuges and create a winning business model around milk?
Penalty structure under incomplete detection
Another nice idea that we have understood is the relationship between the probability of getting caught and the penalty. Suppose the fee required for parking is Rs.10 and suppose the probability of getting caught when illegally parked (i.e. without paying the fee) is 10%. Then it’s sensible to set the penalty for getting caught at Rs.100 so that even a risk-neutral person will prefer to play by the rules. This can be applied in the problem of milk procurement. Suppose we say to the farmer: We’ll trust you and accept your milk, but on a sampling basis, one in ten farmers will be tested.
Suppose a person added 2 litres of water to his shipment of milk and suppose the price of milk was Rs.10 a litre. In that case, he
was trying to steal Rs.20 by palming off low quality milk. But there was only a 10% probability of getting caught, because only one in
ten farmers is tested. So the penalty he should face should be Rs.200. If this is done, the risk-neutral farmer is agnostic between
playing fair and cheating, even if only one in ten farmers is tested.
The advantage of this strategy is that for 90% of the farmers, the deadweight cost of putting a sample into the centrifuge is eliminated.
This idea is, of course, general:
- Sometimes, we are in situations (as in market manipulation in finance) where we know that even the
best regulator in the world will only catch some of the crooks. So we should estimate what fraction of the crooks are getting caught, and then multiply up the size of theft that was attempted. That is, the right way to think of disgorgement is not
that the bad guys should fork up the money that was stolen, but that the penalty imposed by the government should be equal to the size of theft divided by the probability of detection.
- Sometimes, while comprehensive checking is feasible, it’s quite expensive, and it’s efficient to deliberately only do checking
on a sampling basis. A fairly modest scale of randomised checking (e.g. 5%) can do the trick, coupled with a 20x multiplication factor against the size of the theft that was attempted. This would yield a 95% reduction in the amount of checking that is required. This is the idea in the milk example above.
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The Mortgage Bankers’ Association purchase index was released at 7:00 AM EDT, and there was a week to week increase of 3.9% in the Purchase Index and a week to week increase of 3.0% in the Refinance Index as interest rates remain near record lows.
At 8:30 AM EDT, the Durable Goods Orders report for September will be released. The consensus is that there was an increase of 1.6% from August.
At 10:00 AM EDT, the New Home Sales report for September will be released. The consensus is that 300,000 new homes were sold last month, which would be an increase of 12,000 from last month, but still remains near record lows.
At 10:30 AM EDT, the weekly Energy Information Administration Petroleum Status Report will be released, giving investors an update on oil inventories in the United States.
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I had a big long rambling post on general parking/pension issues, but it just isn’t in me to post. Reading about the latest round of rumblings on the fifth floor had be wondering how we wound up in this state. Council-mayor relations have occasionally been bad in the past. Intra-council relations have sometimes gone off the deep end with members swearing at each other in session. So maybe things today were sedate in comparison.
Two things really need commenting on though. Bram tweets that the administration presented some idea that if a bond was issued against future parking revenues, that there was a potential for the parking authority to default with a result of the bond holders taking possession of city parking assets. If Bram passed that on accurately, then folks should know that that is basically false. Default on a revenue bond really can’t result in foreclosure against public assets like that. Skipping legal wonkery, it just isn’t the way things work. Purchasers of a revenue bond have claims against future revenue streams, not the underlying assets. It would be extraordinary, and certainly not required for the bonds to have a mortgage pledge in their prospectus. The concept of wall street types winding up as owners of the garages is just not an option.
Beyond that.. like I said I don’t have it in me. We are again down the rabbit hole Downtown and who knows where we will emerge when all is said and done.
OK, I can’t resist one really fundamental comment. Seems to me that the whole presentation today by the mayor was that this bond issue plan wouldn’t work and it was based on some math saying a bond would be issued at 5.5% if tax-exempt and 7.5% if not tax-exempt. Are those rates for real? I don’t think any muni bond rates are that high these days are they? Would make for some very different math if those rates are incorrect. I really need my Bloomberg box back.
Speaking of bond rates… us 3 public finance wonks may have noticed that bond insurer Assured Guarantee had its bond rating dropped today… Methinks a few big public bonds locally have bond insurance issued by Assured Guarantee. Oh, nevermind.
Yeah… my original post was still longer than all of that.
In reading this article in the Wall Street Journal by By Rebecca Thurlow, Alison Tudor And P. R. Venkat about the potential merger of SGX with ASX, I saw this interesting cross-country comparison of exchange charges (in basis points):
||Trading and clearing
It is quite a striking set of facts.
First, we see that in terms of the core trading and clearing — the charges of the exchange — India is the 2nd lowest in this pile, with a value of 0.35 basis points. This is slightly worse than Japan (0.24 basis points) and superior to all the others. This partly derives from the immense economies of scale at NSE and BSE, which are ranked at 3 and 5 in the world by number of transactions. This is also about the cost-efficiency of the human part of running an exchange: small exchanges like SGX cannot match the price points which NSE and BSE can reach. In this field, as in finance more broadly, India is pretty good at reaching up to world class at below the world price. This was the basic logic, if you recall, of Percy Mistry’s Mumbai as an International Financial Centre report.
Secondly, we see the huge problem that transactions taxes present in all these countries other than Singapore, Australia and Japan. The Indian charge of 0.35 basis points is just swamped by the taxation of 27 basis points. Even if NSE cut charges by half, and got down to 0.175 basis points, this would do nothing for the end-customer who is paying 27.35 today and ends up paying 27.175 across the price cut. Conversely, Singapore, with the least efficient exchange (4.75 basis points) ends up being a nice place for the customer because there is no tax upon transactions there: only Australia and Japan are better than Singapore.
Economists are very clear that all taxation of transactions is distortionary. It’s puzzling why so many countries (four out of these seven) continue to indulge in something which is an elementary mistake in public policy.